The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 29

the man who wasnt thereAlthough most of the town escaped only minor damage, when they get to the Finley’s house, they find serious damage.

Brian ran up to Chase. His friend wouldn’t move, didn’t respond. He stared at what was left of the shed. A crumpled form lay amid the devastation. Miles Casey stood a few feet away, Dora Finley in his arms. She cried hysterically, trying to break free so she could run to the shed.

“Cliff. Oh, darling! He’s dead,” she screeched. “He’s dead!”

An ambulance sat in the yard a few feet away. Emergency workers huddled around Cliff’s body, but it was obvious to Brian and Jordan that their friend’s father was dead. An EMT brought a syringe over, holding it where Dora couldn’t see. Miles nodded, tightening his grip. The needle slipped in and Dora collapsed in his arms. Lifting her easily, Miles set her on a waiting gurney. The EMTs strapped her in and wheeled her to the nearby ambulance.

Chase watched as he mother was loaded into the ambulance. Another EMT covered his father’s body with a sheet. Unblinking, Chase stood rooted to the spot. Miles came over and tried to talk to him. Chase’s eyes flickered from him to his father’s body and back. He nodded once.

“Where are your sisters?” Miles asked again. “Are they here?”

Chase shook his head. The movement was jerky, uneven.

“You’re sure they aren’t here? Are they at a friend’s house?”

Still mute, Chase collapsed. Sobbing, he fell to his knees. Miles squatted next to him.

“Go check the house, son,” he murmured to Brian.

“Yes, sir.” He ran up to a fireman. “He has sisters,” he explained. “We don’t know if they were home or not.”

“No problem, son. We’re on it. What part of the house might they be in?”

“Their rooms are at the front on the top floor. Living room is—honestly, sir, it would be easier to show you.”

“Get the kid some boots and a helmet,” the fireman said to another man who was standing by the truck.

“Yes, sir.”

“That’s his dad?” the man asked quietly.

“Yeah.” Brian gulped. “He’s my best friend,” he told the fireman. “His family is like my own.”

“I’m sorry, kid. We couldn’t do a thing for him. By the time he was found, he’d been dead for at least thirty minutes. Near as we can tell, the force of the blast killed him immediately.”

Brian nodded, leading them to the front door. It was unlocked. He went in, calling for the girls. He and the firemen checked the first and second floors, nothing.

“There’s a playroom in the basement,” Brian remembered. “If they were home, they might have been down there.”

“Lead the way, Brian.”

The firemen followed him down the hall to the basement steps.

“Katie, Lucy? Are you here? It’s Brian!”

He thought he heard a slight sound. Unsure, he borrowed a flashlight from a fireman and went down the steps. The wind had knocked out the power lines. The basement was completely dark. Walking carefully, he picked his way across the room.

“Katie? Lucy? It’s okay, girls. It’s Brian. I’ve got firemen with me. We’re here to get you.”

“Brian?” a tiny voice carried across the room.

“Katie, where are you, honey?”

“On the couch. We were watching My Little Pony when the lights went off.”

“Almost there. Are you hurt?”

“No, but we’re really scared, Brian,” Lucy said.

He saw two pale, frightened faces. Both of them reached for him. He could manage one or the other, but both together was too much for him. Katie was almost ten and tall for her age. Lucy had just turned seven. One of the firemen picked up Katie. Brian got Lucy. The fireman let Katie wear his helmet, so Brian put his on Lucy. They made their way slowly across the room and up the stairs. Coming out in the kitchen, they set the girls down.

“Where’s Mommy? And Daddy?” Katie asked.

Brian wasn’t sure what to say. The fireman bit his lip.

“My dad’s outside,” Brian said. “And Jordan. Want to go to my house for a little while?”

They nodded, wide eyed. Brian led them out the side door, out of sight of the front and back yards. Jordan met him at the car and they took the narrow dirt road to his house. Jordan sent Miles, Jackie and Maribelle a text to let them know what was happening and that they’d found the girls.

“Chase is going to the hospital,” Miles sent back. “He’s in shock. Your mom is going with him. Keep the girls at our house. I’ll get some clothing before I leave.”

“Okay.”

“Where’s Mommy?” Katie asked again.

“My mom will explain when we get to our house,” Brian said.

They trooped up the steps to Brian’s house. Maribelle met them with a plate of fresh baked cookies and cold glasses of milk.

“Maribelle, where are Mommy and Daddy? Brian wouldn’t tell us,” Katie asked.

Calmly, Maribelle explained what had happened. Neither of the girls completely understood about their father.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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